History of the Duke Academic Council

The Academic Council and the Executive Committee which it elects are the chief instruments of University-wide faculty governance at Duke University. The Academic Council was created in1962 in the wake of discontent with its predecessor, the University Council. While the University Council included some senior faculty members elected through departments, it was dominated by administrative officers of the University and their appointees. This arrangement failed to accommodate the concerns of the faculty on a variety of issues, therefore other means for faculty deliberations were sought. For example, during the governance crisis in 1960, when the President resigned and the Vice President in the Division of Education (Provost equivalent) was removed from office by the Board of Trustees, the faculty forum for discussion was the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

The Duke faculty laid the groundwork for the Academic Council shortly after the governance crisis described above. The Council initially consisted of 48 elected faculty members with only the President and one or two other administrative officers as ex officio members. A school and division-based system of election and representation was designed, rather than a departmental system, with a requirement from the very outset that junior ranks be represented at a significant level.

In 1972, a committee chaired by Professor George Christie of the School of Law recommended a reform of the election cycle and the removal of the restriction that the candidates for Chair must be members of the Council. A key suggestion made by the committee was that “the decision- making powers now still retained by the University Faculty, insofar as these powers pertain to University governance, should be delegated to the Academic Council.” A called meeting of the University Faculty adopted this suggestion.

The Christie Report also proposed the “Christie Rule,” which claims for the Academic Council the right to be heard by the administration and the Board of Trustees in matters related to the academic affairs of the university. The Christie Rule requires that the Academic Council have the opportunity to comment on the administration’s decisions and plans prior to their enactment or transmission to the Board of Trustees. Over the years this rule has become a fundamental feature of Duke’s governance system, accepted by both the Council leadership and the administration.

Quite early in its existence, the Academic Council decided that its meetings should be open and accessible to all interested persons, including the press. The use of Executive Session (members of the faculty only) has been narrowly limited to discussion of honorary degree candidates and occasionally of impending searches for senior administrative officers of the University. As a result, the Academic Council is considered the principal open forum for discussion of matters of interest to the University community. The President and other senior administrators participate actively in Council meetings and discussion.

Subjects of interest within the Academic Council in recent years have included the globalization of Duke’s academic programs and specifically Duke Kunshan University; strategic plans and university finances; new buildings and renovation projects; student residential life; online education initiatives; proposals for new departments and degree programs; tenure policy and procedure; the nature and finances of intercollegiate athletics; faculty diversity and salary equity; harassment prevention; and faculty grievance procedures.

To follow is the succession of Academic Council chairs over the years:

Elected for two-year terms:

2023 Trina Jones (Law School)
2021 Erika Weinthal (Nicholas School of the Environment)
2019 Kerry Haynie (Political Science & African and African American Studies)
2017 Don Taylor (Sanford School of Public Policy)
2015 Nan M. Jokerst (Electrical & Computer Engineering)
2013 Joshua Socolar (Physics)
2011 M. Susan Lozier (Earth & Ocean Sciences)
2009 Craig Henriquez (Biomedical Engineering & Computer Science)
2007 Paula McClain (Political Science)
2005 Paul Haagen (Law School)
2002 Nancy Allen (Rheumatology/Medicine) (elected for one additional year)
2000 Peter Burian (Classical Studies)
1998 Robert Mosteller (Law School)
1996 Leonard Spicer (Biochemistry & Radiology)
1994 James Siedow (Botany)
1992 Richard Burton (Fuqua School of Business)
1991 E. Roy Weintraub (Economics) -- elected to fill out the second year of Siegel's term who was selected to be the Dean of the Graduate School August 1991
1990 Lewis Siegel (Biochemistry) (served one year)
1988 Allan Kornberg (Political Science)
1986 Philip Stewart (Romance Studies)
1984 Arie Lewin (Business)
1982 Arie Lewin (Business)
1981 E. Roy Weintraub (Economics) (served one year)
1979 Lawrence Evans (Physics)
1977 Anne F. Scott (History)
1975 Richard L. Watson (History)
1973 Carl Anderson (English)

Elected for one-year terms:

1972 Joel Colton (History)
1971 Joel Colton (History)
1970 Donald J. Fluke (Zoology)
1969 Donald J. Fluke (Zoology)
1968 William Cartwright (Education)
1967 William Cartwright (Education)
1966 Francis Paschal (Law)
1965 Richard L. Watson (History)
1964 Richard L. Watson (History)
1963 William B. Hamilton (History)
1962 William B. Hamilton (History)